This photojournalism project took place in spring 2010 in partnership with the Prince Albert YWCA Aboriginal Youth Support Services. The teen participants used photography to explore their relationship to ‘home’ under the mentorship of photographer Eugene Capay and artist Michel Boutin. Eugene also went with residents of the Our House shelter to visit and photograph outdoor sites used by homeless individuals in Prince Albert. The photos by Eugene and participants were publicly exhibited at the John V. Hicks Gallery and the Alfred Jenkins Field House in Prince Albert.
Common Weal Community Arts was pleased to host the national conference, Connect: towards a socially-engaged aesthetic, May 14th to 16th, 2010 at the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina. This conference brought together artists and activists to network and explore methodologies that engage communities and the arts. It featured keynote speaker, Suzanne Lacy, author of "New Genre Public Art" (California) and other presenters and panelists from across Canada. Panels included "Art is not Peace: Challenging Perceptions," "Art in Place," and "Transmit and Receive: New Practices."
Presenters included: Rachael Van Fossen, Ruth Howard, Beni Malone, Kathleen Irwin, Paula Jardine, Elwood Jimmy, Annie Roy, Allison Hayford, Shawna Dempsey, Terrance Houle, Daniel Mach, Devora Neumark, Sara Bessin, Leah Morris, Cheryl L'Hirondelle, Glenn Alteen, Caffyn Kelley, Aleyna May Stene, Cindy Baker, Robin Elliott, and Judith Marcuse.
The presentations and panels varied from highly scholarly to extremely personal, and revealed projects focusing on individual performance, intra-community dialogue and community development and change. One of the challenges that thread through the panels and discussions - was the manner in which these art practices fit into the aesthetic of traditional art, and the resulting need for a new framework for critiquing community-based art. Due to the success of the conference, Canada Council is supporting a Common Weal publication, as a response to the conference. It will host an internal logic beyond transcribing the rich materials presented, bringing together the ideas and text of the conference thematically, with editorial writing by the two principle writers, Rachael Van Fossen, theatre artist and founding artistic director of Common Weal and Brenda Niskala, writer and rapporteur for the conference.
What Inspires Us was a photography-based project in which fifteen grade 11 students from Scott Collegiate were taught photography as a vehicle for self-expression. This project aimed to engage young people as both individuals and as a group. They were introduced to methods to express themselves, release some of the stories and images they have within them, and forge a common bond with each other in the sharing and shaping of their stories. Project sessions included introduction to photography and photographers, camera instruction, elements of composition, computer editing, and the creation of photo-essays. What Inspires Us provided a non-violent, rights-based framework for methods enabling them to explore their lives and communicate their experiences to others.
Common Weal’s Prince Albert office developed the Shelter Project to engage community members in creative activities and discussion responding to issues of homelessness. September 19, 2009 Montreal artists; Annie Roy and Pierre Allard came to Prince Albert to give a presentation to community members about ATSA’s artistic responses to homelessness in their hometown of Montreal. Pierre and Annie create urban interventions: installations, performances and realistic stagings bearing witness to social issues.
In the next two years, Common Weal expanded the shelter program with collaborative activities involving professional artists and people directly affected by the issues of homelessness.
Shelter artists included photographer, Eugene Capay, and ceramic artist, Carole Epp, who were involved in creative activities with young adults in the Prince Albert YWCA residences.
From spring of 2010, the families of brain injury survivors wrote about their unique experiences in workshops with Prince Albert poet, Lynda Monahan. Lynda is the author of two collections of poetry, "A Slow Dance in the Flames" and "What My Body Knows," both published by Coteau Books. Her work has been published in a number of Canadian literary magazines and broadcast nationally on CBC radio. She has recently completed a third manuscript Red Boots in the Snow, Lynda collected stories from family members of acquired brain injury survivors and edited them for a chat book that was launched in November 2011.
The Seven Elder Teachings project was an eight-week program with one Elder presenting a specific teaching each week, including a session conducted by visual artist Jori Cachene, who guided the participants in the expression and portrayal of these teachings through visual art. The project was filmed in its entirety, and an ensuing documentary film was created of the project by filmmaker Peter Brass.
Following the successes of the Dewdney Avenue Project, the North Central Artist in Residence program continued the creative engagement of the North Central community. Gordon Keewatin began his position as Artist in Residence in September 2008, gathering information through community visits and agencies and families within the community of North Central. Through this outreach, he could then determine the specific focus of the program. Meaningful arts programming was developed that recognized and embraced the unique contributions, histories and living stories that this community offers to the City of Regina. The artist, Gordon Keewatin, worked with community residents in exploring the needs of its members, artistically and socially, by means of collaboration with Scott Collegiate, Kitchener Elementary, Sacred Heart School, and Paul Dojack Centre. Through his arts and craft based classes, Gordon shared traditional aboriginal teachings and values, acting as a powerful mentor for the project participants.
This is a comprehensive mentorship program using art forms of interest to urban youth. The program was implemented in collaboration with IPAC: The Indigenous Peoples Artistic Collective, the Prince Albert Council for the Arts, the Art Gallery of Prince Albert and Prince Albert schools. Artist Michel Boutin facilitated workshops for school groups, open studio sessions for youth, an open studio called Uber Gurls for young women, and a mentorship with young men called PA Lowbrow. Regina aerosol artists Josh Goff and Jayde Gooden spent a week working with youth and were part of the program's exhibition and performance event Urbanisms, showcasing the work of participants alongside their mentors and the work of nationally known urban artists; Jackson 2 Bears and Terrance Houle. Our partners have taken over the Urban Arts program, which is part of the project's succession plan.
Common Weal has been working with Pine Grove Women’s Correctional Centre for many years, originating in a project with Métis writer Maria Campbell in 2004. Since that time the program has included artists of various disciplines. From 2004 to 2006 visual artist Joseph Gaudry provided weekly visual art workshops. In March 2006 educator and visual artist Carla Johnson assisted Joseph in collaboratively painting murals on the walls of the dining room with Pine Grove inmates. Carla was hired as a full time Educator/Therapist in the Pine Grove Literacy Program, opening the potential for deeper, more intensive Creative Circles programs through Carla’s assistance.
The women of Pine Grove’s Literacy class have been immersed in weeklong workshops with artists of various disciplines. Including writer Lynda Monahan and artist Nicole Charlebois who collaborated with the literacy group on a writing/textile project resulting in a collaborative textile work. Simon Moccasin hosted an acting workshop. During the same time actor/film-maker Marcel Petit produced a video celebrating the Pine Grove Literacy Program and its affects on the inmates of the facility, entitled Expanding Knowledge; We’re not just chicks in grey. Visual and performance artist Robin Brass led the literacy group through a visual art project creating “memory boxes” with various materials. Inside the boxes they put objects and notes of significance to their lives. Though the boxes are taken home with the women when they transfer out of the facility, photographs of the boxes by Eugene Capay were presented in an exhibition at the John V. Hicks Gallery in the Prince Albert Centre for the Arts.
Singer/songwriter and interdisciplinary artist Cheryl L’Hirondelle was invited back to Pine Grove in 2008 having previously performed for inmates there in 1999 with her then singing partner Joseph Naytowhow as part of Nikamok. Though originally a week-long singing workshop was envisioned, Cheryl was inspired by the resources the literacy program offered and turned it into a singing/songwriting workshop resulting in the collaboratively written round dance song The Beauty Within. She also taught the legendary P4W prison standard Strong Woman Song by Maggie Paul. Both songs were recorded using a local audio company on the final day and CBC Radio SK came and interviewed the women and Cheryl about the process.
All of these creative pieces including the first showing of the documentary, Expanding Knowledge: We’re Not Just Chicks in Grey by Marcel Petit were exhibited and performed at the John V. Hicks Gallery in the Prince Albert Centre for the Arts in 2009. In March 2010 we invited Cheryl back and this time, after her having noticed the positive experience the women had working with Marcel and Simon, she brought along Toronto-based singer/songwriter Gregory Hoskins to arrange, produce and record the session. From this second workshop, The Journey Home was composed and recorded.
The women from the Pine Grove Literacy Program continued to write to Cheryl long after both workshops were completed, this relationship having had a lasting effect on both the artist and the participants involved. In 2011, we decided to take the success of Cheryl’s past projects and create a longer-term program in which she will be coming back to conduct week-long songwriting intensives. Cheryl’s own goal is to make an album of songs and has been working with other community-engaged organizations, literacy groups, prison rights societies and correctional institutions across the country with the Creative Circles Pine Grove sessions being the major contributor and corner-stone of her recording project. For the album project, entitled Prison Songs (“why the caged bird sings”), she has enlisted the expertise of Toronto-based Juno award-winning music producer David Travers-Smith to ensure its sonic excellence.
The goal is to also leave the legacy of a collection of songs to honour these women’s lives and to contribute to the field of community activism and songwriting/composing – using an inclusive creative workshop approach, indigenous and female to the core. Common Weal is proud to have created a forum for such an important far-reaching project and will assist in any way we can.
The Extras was a video performance referencing the form of a film shoot, involving an actor (Michele Sereda), numerous background performers, cameras, lighting and sound crews. The Extras contextualized local Saskatchewan film history within an experimental live tableau. The Extras aimed to create a conceptual monument to the world of Karl May, Winnetou, and Chinganchgook, with reference to Uranium exploitation and entrepreneurial cultures in the city.
It was a collaborative project with artist Michele Sereda, artistic director of Curtain Razors. An original creation by the Szuper Gallery (UK), the production of The Extras was adapted to Regina’s own particular relationship with film production, potent architectural sites that carry political histories relevant to the province and the city. The performance incorporated local film history as material to work with to develop the performance, and a slate of diverse extras were drawn from the community to be performers. The performance involved 23 local extra performers, crew, cameras, lighting, and sound. Curtain Razors collaborated with interdisciplinary performance group Szuper Gallery and had the technical support of the Saskatchewan FilmPool Cooperative, and dissemination support from Mackenzie Art Gallery.
This was an interdisciplinary art project that engaged participants and audiences from core neighbourhoods in dialogue regarding notions of site, circumstance, and voice in relation to the history of the geographical space now known as the City of Regina. Dewdney Avenue was the starting and focal point of the project because it had geographical and socio-economic significance as a major east-west artery in the City of Regina. The local detachment of the RCMP and national training centre, Government House, and a significant portion of North Central residence are all on or near Dewdney Avenue. Hemmed in by the CN and CP railways and major roadway arteries, the community of North Central has become geographically, economically, and socially isolated from the rest of Regina.
The Dewdney Avenue Project had five streams of programming: video, audio, visual, voice, and interdisciplinary works through the vision of four artists to unpack and draw attention to local stories and histories. Under the artistic direction of Elwood Jimmy, the artists included: Terrance Houle (video), Cheryl L’Hirondelle (audio), Edward Poitras (multi-disciplinary), and Traci Foster (voice). Cheryl collected interviews, thoughts and stories shared about the North Central. As an audio component, these recordings were then broadcast through pirate radio on a low watt radio transmitter in collaboration with Scott Collegiate. The community stories were heard throughout the community on May 30th.
Traci worked with disabled and non-disabled participants from the South Saskatchewan Independent Living Centre. Through workshops, which took place at Albert Scott Community Centre, participants used their bodies to express their voice stories and emotions. The students worked with Traci on performance, storytelling and mask making. Terrance Houle worked with the historic stories of North Central Regina and created small miniature stories out of train models. He then photographed and videotaped these stories. The images were used within a citywide bus and transit shelter project.
Finally, Edward Poitras took to the streets of North Central for his component of the project. Working with the ideas of those missing from the community and the ideas and feelings that resonate with the community residents, Edward created video, photo-based, installation and web-based work. He particularly focused on the history of those who have gone missing and the lack of information on these residents: the hidden stories of the community.